A homeowner association (HOA) develops rules and regulations intended to look out for the common interest of residents within its development. Purchasing a home in an area controlled by a HOA usually comes with automatic membership in the association and responsibility for associated fees. State laws regulate the operation of HOAs, and these laws vary. Each HOA has a set of governing documents, including articles; bylaws; and covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs), which set out the rules regarding rights and responsibilities of both the owners and the HOA. HOAs may regulate things like:

  • Housing: Your HOA can limit the colors you use on the exterior of your home. If you are building a new home in an existing community, it can regulate the size and style of the home.
  • Pets: Your HOA may limit the type, size and number of pets you own.
  • Children’s play structures: Rules may prohibit or regulate the size, construction and location of items like swing sets, trampolines and basketball hoops.
  • Detached structures, like tool sheds: You may have to use certain materials, limit the size of structures or place them on your property so that they are not visible from the street.
  • Mailboxes: You may be limited to certain styles of mailbox or their placement
  • Decorations: Your HOA can limit the kinds of decorations you put on your home or in your yard. It can also limit the amount of time you may leave up holiday decorations.
  • Landscaping: You may be allowed to plant only certain types of flowers or shrubs.
  • Fencing and hedges: HOA regulations may limit fencing material choices and color as well as hedge types. They may also regulate the height of both.
  • Noise: Although most municipalities have noise regulations, your HOA can impose stricter limits.
  • Home-based businesses: An HOA can prohibit them or limit the type of business you may operate.

The HOA’s board also has the authority to:

  • Enforce the rules
  • Pay taxes and assessments related to common areas
  • Buy goods and services for common areas
  • Develop rules for using common areas
  • Take disciplinary action against association members for violating rules
  • Assess and collect fees for maintenance and repair of common areas and other necessary expenses

In some states, the association may foreclose on owners who do not pay their fees. Each HOA must follow all applicable local, state and federal laws, but otherwise are free to set their own rules. So, one HOA may ban all pets while others may allow only small pets. Others may ban certain types of children’s play structures or allow them only in parts of your yard not visible from the street. Make sure you are clear on the regulations within a community you are considering moving into, and be sure you can live with those regulations. Once you move in, get involved with your association. That way you will know about potential changes and be able to express your opinion and shape the character of your community.